2010 April 15: CT Cheshire: ban outdoor wood boilers

2010 April 15: CT Cheshire: ban outdoor wood boilers
 

Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2010 2:54 pm | Updated: .

By: Nancy Alderman Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2010 2:54 pm | 0 comments

Cheshire is now considering banning outdoor wood furnaces. If they do so, they will become the tenth Connecticut town to ban them.
An outdoor wood-burning furnace (OWF), also known as an outdoor wood boiler, is essentially a small, insulated shed with a short smokestack. It burns wood that heats water that is then sent through underground pipes to heat a home or a building.
Outdoor wood furnaces should not to be confused with indoor wood stoves, which are tested and certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Each outdoor wood furnace emits wood smoke equivalent to 22 indoor wood stoves — and they emit their smoke 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their smoke plume can travel up to 1/2 a mile, causing neighboring houses to fill with smoke and cause illness among neighboring families. .
Most outdoor wood furnaces employ a very primitive combustion technology. As a result, they emit dense smoke that endangers the health of families and neighbors. The particles of wood smoke are so small that closed doors and windows cannot stop them from entering homes, even energy-efficient, weather-tight homes.
The use of outdoor wood furnaces has increased over the past few years, causing the CT Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) to receive over 700 complaints about their smoke entering neighbors’ homes and making families sick.
The CT DEP’s Web site has a fact-sheet that includes the question: "Are OWFs harmful to the environment and human health?" The answer given: "Yes, OWFs produce a lot of thick smoke, which in addition to being a nuisance to neighbors, has serious health and air pollution impacts. Smoke from OWFs contains unhealthy amounts of particulate matter, dioxin, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and other toxic air pollutants. Exposure to smoke from an OWF can increase adverse respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms. Exposure to other pollutants listed above is associated with a diverse range of harmful health effects, including asthmatic sensitivity, lung illnesses and cancer."
Because the furnaces are in a closed shed, one cannot see what is being burned. Although they are designed for wood, owners can add yard waste, packing materials, construction debris, household garbage and tires without anyone knowing.
Burning those substances is illegal. However, there is no way to know what is being burned. If these other substances are burned, it will increase the toxic and hazardous air pollutants.
Different states have tried to protect people from these furnaces by passing regulations. However, none of the regulations have proven to be effective enough to protect health. Only the state of Washington has banned them throughout their state because of the serious health impacts outdoor furnaces pose to their citizens.
Because of their basic design, it is possible that the furnaces can never be made safe. Their emissions problems are complicated by the fact they cycle between oxygen-deficient and oxygen-rich burning. The smoke that leaves the stack, irrespective of height, lacks the heat necessary for it to rise or to be diffused. The smoke falls to the ground.
Breathing air containing wood smoke has many harmful effects. It can reduce lung function and increase asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis. It can aggravate heart disease, irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses, as well as trigger headaches and allergies.
Environment and Human Health Inc. joins the American Lung Association in New England that asked that outdoor wood furnaces be banned until better technologies are found.

Nancy Alderman is president of Environment and Human Health Inc., North Haven. E-mail: info@ehhi.org.

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